In this martial world dominated by men, women had little place. The Church's teachings might underpin feudal morality, yet when it came to the practicalities of life, a ruthless pragmatism often came into play. Kings and noblemen married for political advantage, and women rarely had any say in how they or their wealth were to be disposed in marriage. Kings would sell off heiresses and rich widows to the highest bidder, for political or territorial advantage, and those who resisted were heavily fined.Alison Weir
Young girls of good birth were strictly reared, often in convents, and married off at fourteen or even earlier to suit their parents' or overlord's purposes. The betrothal of infants was not uncommon, despite the church's disapproval. It was a father's duty to bestow his daughters in marriage; if he was dead, his overlord or the King himself would act for him. Personal choice was rarely and issue.
Upon marriage, a girl's property and rights became invested in her husband, to whom she owed absolute obedience. Every husband had the right to enforce this duty in whichever way he thought fit--as Eleanor was to find out to her cost. Wife-beating was common, although the Church did at this time attempt to restrict the length of the rod that a husband might use.
The Burgundian chronicler Philippe de Commines thought the English a choleric, earthy, and volatile people, who nevertheless made good, brave soldiers. In fact he regarded their warlike inclinations as one of the chief causes of the Wars of the Roses. If they could not fight the French, he believed, they fought each other.Alison Weir
A husband or wife did not have the right either to demand sex from his or her spouse or to refuse it, and there was a catalogue of forbidden sexual practices, notably homosexuality, bestiality, certain sexual positions, masturbation, the use of aphrodisiacs, and oral sex, which could incur a penance of three years’ duration. Nor were people to make love on Sundays, holy days, or feast days, or during Lent, pregnancy, or menstruation. People believed that if these rules were disobeyed, deformed children or lepers might result.Alison Weir
There can have been no doubt in Eleanor's mind as to what was expected of her as a wife. In her day, women were supposed to be chaste both inside and outside marriage, virginity and celibacy being highly prized states. When it came to fornication, women were usually apportioned the blame, because they were the descendants of Eve, who had tempted Adam in the Garden of Eden, with such dire consequences. Women, the Church taught, were the weaker vessel, the gateway to the Devil, and therefore the source of all lechery. St. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote: "To live with a woman without danger is more difficult than raising the dead to life." Noblewomen, he felt, were the most dangerous so fall. Women were therefore kept firmly in their place in order to prevent them from luring men away from the paths of righteousness.Alison Weir
Promiscuity--and its often inevitable consequence, illicit pregnancy--brought great shame upon a woman and her family, and was punishable by fines, social ostracism, and even, in the case of aristocratic and royal women, execution. Unmarried women who indulged in fornication devalued themselves on the marriage market. In England, women who were sexually experienced were not permitted to accuse men of rape in the King's court. Female adultery was seen as a particularly serious offence, since it jeopardized the laws of inheritance.
Men, however, often indulged in casual sex and adultery with impunity. Because the virtue of high-born women was jealously guarded, many men sought sexual adventures with lower-class women. Prostitution was common and official brothels were licensed and subject to inspection in many areas. There was no effective contraception apart from withdrawal, and the Church frowned upon that anyway: this was why so many aristocratic and royal bastards were born during this period.
From whom but the Devil did this advice come under which you are acting? Those who are urging you to repeat your former wrongdoings against an innocent person are seeking in this not your honour but their own convenience. They are clearly the enemies of your crown and the disturbers of your realm.Alison Weir